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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1989 Jun;13(3):392-8.

Psychophysiological effects of alcohol-related stimuli: II. Enhancement with alcohol availability.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.


This laboratory study examined methods of enhancing physiological and subjective responses of alcoholics to naturalistic alcohol-related stimuli by repeated exposures to a high-dose alcohol drink. Individual subjects participated in five successive daily sessions consisting of randomized-block presentations of gustatory and visual presentation of alcohol, pepper juice (as a control for stimulus taste intensity), or water stimuli. Following the stimulus trial series, all subjects ingested 1.5 oz of alcohol in a shot glass. Twelve subjects next received a 1.7 g/kg alcohol drink ("high dose alcohol group") on Days 1-4 and placebo on Day 5, and 12 subjects received a placebo drink on all study Days (1-5) ("placebo drink group"). On Day 1, alcohol stimuli generally elicited larger heart rate and skin conductance increases and skin temperature decreases than water or pepper juice stimuli. Alcohol stimuli also elicited greater subjective responses than either pepper juice or water. Alcohol availability within the taste trial markedly increased physiological and subjective reactivity to alcohol-related stimuli, perhaps due to the closer approximation to natural drinking behavior. A comparison with previous data from this laboratory suggests that prestudy deprivation from alcohol, instructions to expect alcohol, a conductive drink setting, and the opportunity to drink alcohol within the session may enhance reactivity to alcohol stimuli in alcoholics.

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